PHILOSOPHY & PRACTICES
Gurudev observed certain days of the year in specific ways.
A Thursday of the month is designated as Bada Guruvar. This is usually the first Thursday following a no moon (Amavasya) night.
On this day, seva is performed at sthans across the country. Visitors are served tea and, if possible, Khichdi. They are not permitted to offer anything in return since nothing is accepted in exchange for seva rendered. However, visitors to the main sthan at Sector 10 in Gurgaon can offer sugar-coated barley grains (phuliyan) and sugar pops (pattisa). After being energised at the sthan, these sugary offerings are returned to them.
On Bada Guruvar, around 50,000 people would come to seek the mahaguru’s help. He met all of them for a few seconds or more. Many didn’t have the time to explain in detail the support they needed but somehow or the other, they would receive the help or healing sought.
Every week, Gurudev would observe a fast on Mondays. On this day, he lived only on liquids till nightfall. In his early years as a mahaguru, he would break his fast with water, yoghurt and jaggery, followed by potato sabzi and rotis. The water-yoghurt-jaggery amalgam was apportioned for the cow, crow, dog and house guest before the person breaking the fast could consume his share. Gradually, with time, this practice was given up. These days, the fast on Mondays is broken at sunset with cooked potatoes and rotis. Devotees and disciples are allowed to eat fruits throughout the day, should they choose to.
He recommended fasting as a form of tapasya. By sacrificing a meal owed to you by destiny, you are willingly giving it up for another being. Moreover, fasting once a week allows the digestive system to rest, releases toxins, repairs body cells, speeds metabolism and improves brain health. Furthermore, since there is no additional input of cereals and salt on that day, body secretions are fewer, and the mind is freer of activity and stress.
Mondays are days when the rays of the moon are dominant. The lunar rays have an effect on water and the mind. Since our bodies are nearly 70% water, these rays also affect us. In a nutshell, the moon influences the body-mind complex. Fasting on Mondays is good for physical and mental well-being.
Musing about Mondays, Ravi ji recalls the mahaguru’s words, “This day is dedicated to your Isht, so you should do as much paath as you can on this day”. The isht being referred to is Shiv in his unmanifested state.
Gurudev also suggested fasting as a practice on Ganesh Chauth and Mahashivratri.
Ravi ji recalls his guru explaining that fasting is a self-restraint practice, meant to exercise control on food intake, speech and the senses.
Fasting enhances the potency of the magnetic qualities in human beings. Therefore one can absorb more energy from the Earth or atmosphere. For those with a greater capacity to hold energy, fasting is an effective method of energy replenishment.
Mataji distributes ladoos on Ganesh Chauth
Ganesh Chauth usually falls in January, when the climate is cool and wintry.
On this day, devotees and disciples fast from sunrise to moonrise, without food or water.
The fast is broken with jaggery-sesame ladoos and jaggery tea. Ladoos are served at the sthan or made at home. Likewise with the jaggery tea.
The period from Diwali to Mahashivratri is known as the ‘shakti period’. During this period, the masculine principle of a person’s energy becomes passive, while the feminine principle becomes dominant. Aware of this technicality, practising spiritualists prefer to maintain a low profile during this period, limiting their social interaction with women to a necessary minimum.
On Ganesh Chauth, a third of the masculine principle re-awakens, allowing a man to reclaim a part of the energetic spark that augments his spirit. Finally, on Mahashivratri, the masculine principle of a man’s energy is fully enlivened and becomes dominant, yet again.
This day arrives forty-one days after Ganesh Chauth, usually in February or March, every year.
Those fasting eat before sunrise and do not consume any food or water until midnight. They break their fast either at the sthan or their homes, with a combination of salted fried potatoes and black lemon-pepper tea.
This fast is more rigorous than Ganesh Chauth since it lasts for a few hours longer. During Gurudev’s time, the queues on Mahashivratri would extend for several kilometres. It took anywhere from three to four days to ensure all devotees had met with the mahaguru and taken his blessings.
Although Mahashivratri is held at every sthan, many devotees from across the country assemble at the Gurgaon sthan to break their fast. Their food and lodging arrangements are taken care of by the sevadaars. Food is cooked in large quantities, and from two days before Mahashivratri to two days after, langar is served to all visitors.
Upon closer study of Gurudev’s life, I have come to realise that almost every occasion became an opportunity for him to serve food to countless others.
Gurudev blesses and returns a coconut wrapped in a cloth to a devotee,
Every year, mostly in July, a day is ritually dedicated to the guru and is called Guru Purnima.
It is a day to pay homage to your guru for his presence in your life and contribution to your spiritual progress.
For Gurudev, this day marked the celebration of a custom. His devotees offered him a coconut wrapped in a cloth, which he blessed and returned. The coconut usually symbolises the human head, and offering a coconut to your guru implies surrender to his grace. He allowed his disciples to offer him a set of nine clothes or accessories. Alternatively, he felt the custom was complete even if we wrote ‘Nine clothes’ on a yellow handkerchief and offered that instead. He permitted a few disciples to wash his feet and then drink the water, which was very potent since it contained his energy. The energised water proved to be an elixir for many disciples as it raised their consciousness.
Devotees flocked in thousands to seek his blessings and get their coconuts blessed. Many fasted on fruits until they paid their respects. Visitors to the sthans were offered sweetened saffron rice and mangoes.
DUSSEHRA, DHANTERAS AND DIWALI
As per the lunar cycle, the twenty day period from Dussehra to Diwali is considered the year’s darkest.
As a guru in the making, Gurudev would do a lot of paath during this period, sleep on the ground, wear the same clothes without changing and eat light if at all. In later years, he stopped practising it himself but suggested it to a few disciples.
Devotees get a silver coin blessed by the Mahaguru on Dhanteras.
A day or two before Diwali is Dhanteras. It is a day to offer gratitude to the deity of wealth, Laxmi Devi, and request barkat (the luck to make your buck last longer).
The mahaguru’s followers, devotees and disciples, bought a silver coin of Laxmi Devi on this day and got it blessed from him. Starting Diwali night, a saffron or vermillion tilak is applied on the coin for forty-one nights. And a specific mantra given by the guru is chanted to appease the deity’s energy so that the power of barkat that lies latent within each of us can be awakened.
Diwali is the darkest night of the year. The mahaguru advised that we light diyas or oil-lamps on this night, especially at seven specific spots; water body, Tulsi plant, Peepal tree, road crossing, temple, cemetery and in our homes. Generally, diyas are lit to appease certain energies.
Gurudev also suggested we stay awake on Diwali night doing paath. Even though mantra-based meditation is essential on all days, on certain days, its benefit is significantly enhanced.
OTHER SIGNIFICANT DAYS
During an eclipse, the mahaguru advised abstinence from water and food, suggesting that we focus on paath, instead.
During the days of shraddh, he advocated feeding people and animals on behalf of our ancestors. Besides that, other charitable acts can and should be done in their name. Whenever you do something for your ancestors, a part of the benefit accrues to you while the rest is attributed to them.
Contrary to the popular sentiment around birthdays, the mahaguru did not believe in this concept since the jivaatma is neither born nor dies. However, since he moved on, his devotees have started observing Basant Panchami as his birthday. While the tradition of distributing sweetened saffron rice on Basant Panchami has been ongoing since Gurudev’s time, he observed it only as a day dedicated to the deity of wisdom, Saraswati.